Writing Programs

Dear Reader,

Why, oh why, does this topic come up so often? When you tell someone you are going to homeschool, they always talk about calculus: “How are you going to teach it?” (And don’t you just love the lack of confidence in one’s abilities that that implies?) But as our kids get older, the thing moms seem to stress about most is how to teach our kids to write. (And how many times have I addressed this issue already! Here are posts one, two, three, four, five and six!)

A lot of people around here use The Institute for Excellence in Writing (IEW) which is a video based, intensive writing curriculum. I have not looked at it nor used it myself but from what I hear it uses checklists, requiring things like “use four ‘-ly’ words in your writing.” My friend who used it briefly would have her son read something from an Usborne type book, list ideas or words from what he read, and then rewrite the information in his own words. While the process is not hugely different from what we have done for writing in the past year, the use of dry books like Usborne makes me cringe inside. Now I don’t know if the kind of books were her choice or came from IEW, but I can’t imagine imitating such writing producing good writers.

So not having actually looked at IEW, the impression I got was that it is nothing I would ever want to use. But I have been tempted recently by a long thread on the Simply Charlotte Mason discussion board. It seems some CM-ers do use IEW and report success. They mention using it more flexibly though it is not clear to me to what degree they alter what is given. Of course, others are just as set against it (hence the long discussion). Nonetheless, it did make me think that perhaps there is more to this whole IEW thing than I had previously been led to believe.

It is very hard as a homeschool mom not to get tempted by materials (often expensive and this one is, very) that others say have worked wonders for them. It is also very easy to feel that one is not doing enough when one hers all the things others are doing (critical thinking? writing? why don’t I have curricula for these??). I was made to feel this was about writing specifically recently. The conversation was along the lines of:

Friend: “Are you going to use X for writing this year?”

Me: “No, I’m not.”

Friend: “So you are just going to teach writing using some other curriculum?”

Me: “No, I am going to teach it using no curriculum.”

Friend: blank stare

So I was much consoled to come across this post from Higher Up and Further In. This addresses all my deepest fears about writing and basically says that the Charlotte Mason approach of teaching writing through written narration does work and is enough. It is very comforting.

So I guess we are going to continue with what we have been doing — lots of reading good books, written narration, dictation, and occasionally writing assignments based on good pieces of writing (this is my bastardized version of the progymnasmata approach; again you can read about it here).


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